CALGARY, AB -- Heading into the Hockey Canada's 2012 National Summer U-18 selection camp, Kayle Doetzel wasn't on very many people's radars.
After all, the Red Deer Rebels defenceman was limited to 43 games in the 2011-12 campaign due to injuries and his plus-minus rating sat at minus-22 when the Rebels season came to a close.
Then he landed a spot on the 22-man roster and was off to the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic. Now, Doetzel has plenty eyes on him thanks to exposure the tournament gave him.
"It was a pretty incredible experience," Doetzel told CalgaryFlames.com of his time in the Czech Reublic. "To be involved in the tournament and play with some really great players ... it definitely gives you a confidence boost going into the season."
Doetzel is known for his physical play and rock solid defensive game. He makes opponents pay the price in front of the net and he uses his 6-foot-3, 191 lbs. frame well when separating them from the puck or holding them to the outside.
"He's a guy we're going to rely on a lot," Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin said. "He's a kid that has got high expectations of himself ... he's going to continue to get better, as he did last year. He's a a guy that seems to get better as the season progresses. I think there's another level for Kayle for sure"
The Rebels roster was ravaged by injuries throughout the 2011-12 season, forcing players to take on bigger roles than they were accustomed to and Doetzel's ice time saw a substantial increase when a few members of the Red Deer defensive corps were sidelined. In Wallin's mind, it was the best thing for Doetzel's development.
"Early on, he was finding his way around as most 16 year-old d-men do and then he got an opportunity to play when we had some older guys go down on our back end.
"The more he played, the better he got and the more comfortable he got. He ended up being a real solid guy for us. From mid-November to the middle of January, he was playing a lot of minutes and playing against some good players. He became a guy that we depended on."
Unfortunately, Doetzel himself sustained a season-ending injury on January 25 after he was hit from behind and suffered broken ribs. The disappointment of having his year end so prematurely was a driving factor in Doetzel's off-season training.
"I worked really hard over the summer," he said. "I wanted to come into camp ready and in the best shape I've been in. I trained all through June and July and with the Ivan Hlinka tournament helped out with training too.
"I want to improve all areas of my game - speed, strength, skill. So I'm working hard at improving my all-around game."
One thing Doetzel is not focusing on is his draft eligibility. While he knows scouts will be paying close attention to him this year, he is concentrating on getting the Rebels back into the postseason picture.
"I don't want to think about it too much," he said. "If it's on your mind all the time, you're going to get away from your game and what makes you successful.
"We have a great group here this year. I think we're going to be able to step up and make the playoffs. I'm really excited."